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Life throws us lemons, we’ve all had that moment where the lemons came at a time you least expected it. Maybe there was more going on than you could handle. They say when life throws you lemons you should make lemonade (or margaritas as I prefer), but sometimes you can’t figure out how to make the lemonade… or quite frankly, you don’t want to.

Sometimes it’s easier to just wallow in the misery, but the reality is that it doesn’t really help. Sure it’s nice in the moment, you feel sorry for yourself, lie under the duvet watching bad day time TV and adding lemon concentrate to your vodka and tonic, or whatever your poison might be. But nothing good can come from this.

And then you look around you, who is there to support you when the lemons are coming at you? The people who surround you should be your cheerleaders and lift you up. If the people around you don’t have your best interest, they won’t be here for you now and you need to know it’s ok to cut them off. Ok maybe it’s not that simple. When I say cut them off, I mean just know what they’re there for – they don’t have your back, and they don’t need to. And that’s ok. You came into the world alone. It’s not nice to be alone, it’s lonely. It’s scary, and it’s kinda depressing. But it makes you have to trust yourself and rely on your self. Nothing makes you stronger than realising you have to go through the good and the bad by yourself. It’s obviously better when you have someone you can trust and share your fears with, but not everyone is blessed with that. And focusing on that can be just as upsetting as the lemons you’re already dealing with.

So back to the option of a duvet day. It’s not a great idea. But don’t be so hard on yourself. Take each day as it comes. Day one can be a duvet, wallow in my own misery day. Day two, you get up, get dressed, and show up. When we start looking at things differently we start seeing options. And that’s really what makes lemons into lemonades, seeing the options that you have.

Once you realise you have options, you realise it’s not that bad after all. In those dark hours, it really does seem hopeless and that there is no way out, but after the rain the sun does come out, you just have to weather it out.

I also find that at these times exercise and focusing on something completely different will help your mood.

(I do write these blogs based on my own experiences and what I go through, so that my experiences and the lessons I learn will help others, and I think voicing out what I feel, helps me reflective, learn, and move on).

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly organised person. I know I’m process driven, because I think order helps the balance of getting stuff done, but in the last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the role organization plays in doing something successfully.

ruff kaida performing at ZMAs

In February we (as in Media 365) co-produced yet another good Zambian Music Awards (I’m anxious for it to go online to share the link with all that missed it and embrace the talent of our local artists), approximately a month later the ZNBC Born and Bred Music Video Awards happened. There was a lot of talk, both on social media, and in ‘real life’ comparing the two shows. For the record I think Born and Bred really stepped up their game this year, and it wasn’t such a bad show.

And for all the people commenting negatively about it, the fact of the matter is you watched the entire show, so if we had people ratings, the show would still have been a ratings success!

I do think it’s important that we’re constantly learning and improving and maybe that’s why I’m not so ready to bash ZNBC for Born and Bred. I don’t think they really took into consideration the points raised at their stakeholders meeting in 2012, I do think they did a better job at acknowledging that if the ZMAs could do it, there was no reason why BnB couldn’t be better. And that needs to be applauded. I’m yet to understand why people in Zambia (and yes I’m generalising because it’s more of the norm than I care for) are so full of hate and malice. So quick to criticise and cut people down. I hope this year being 50 years of independence we’re learn to let go of our own issues (because the issues are with the person hating and fixating on the negative) and learn to embrace and support each other – it can be done, while there was some very quiet corners regarding Love Games and Freddy (repping M365 of course) winning an AMVCA (that’s for another blog), there was also overwhelming support from Zambians across the country and indeed the world. We can support each other, but there is still way too much hateful vibes from ourselves – what’s up with that?

Love Games wins at AMVCA

Anyhoo back to the matter at hand, when I watched the 3+hour Born and Bred Award show (it was unnecessary to be that long), their issues were easily fixed and somewhat minor, although they made all the difference to the show and the viewers experience (especially the at home viewers).

I can’t underscore the importance and need for planning and having the resources to enable you to get going with stuff. ZMA planning started months ago – and even that was too late. Realistically I think to put on a really amazing show you should start planning at least 6 months in advance. You have to remember that first and foremost it’s a show. And there is so much that goes into a show – Costumes – Cleo Ice Queen, Salma, they all had outfits made specifically for their performances.

Cleo Ice Queen channeling her inner Beyonce

Salma remixing old classic Mate

The choreography, the actual performance – Roberto had a pianist and violinist perform the musical arrangement for Good Woman (and it was originally supposed to be a string quartet – all female – yeah, hard one to find in Zambia, especially with only two weeks to the show! lol).

roberto

And stage design and lighting design? All those elements can’t be rushed. And ZMAs didn’t even have those six months but still pulled off a pretty decent show.

Then it’s about rehearsals. I think the artists at the ZMAs pretty much hated us for their constant rehearsals – the last two days they spent entirely at the venue rehearshing and rehearsing to get everything right. And I’ll give them credit because it would have been easy to be lazy about it and leave, but they committed to the rehearsals. And they received and welcomed feedback, which showed in their final performances.

The rehearsals were important for a number of reasons. The artists were performing live so they needed to rehearse to get that right – especially important for the singers. They needed to know their marks – the cameras needed to know their marks. I laughed the other day when we had some talent in the office who complained we ruined TV for them when I explained that rarely is anything spontaneous because camera, sound, lighting, producers all needed to know what the person in front of the camera was going to do at every moment to ensure it worked technically.

You’ve seen previous shows on TV (ehem ZNBC) where the camera didn’t follow an artist because the camera team didn’t know the artist was going to move off that mark – probably because they didn’t rehearse before hand. Each performance, each guest presenter, everything was timed. I’m not sure how the guest presenters on the BnBs managed to go so off script so often but I don’t see why that should have happened… perhaps it was the selection of presenters… I don’t know. There just seemed to have been a lot of issues due to timing and control of that time (I won’t speak to the non-live performances, think we all have a problem with that – though ZNBC said their audience for the show – the kids (who couldn’t afford to attend the show even if they wanted to) didn’t have a problem with lip syncing… alrighty then). I think if they could have got all their marks on their running order, we would have seen a notable difference just from that…

Generally this issue of time and allocation of it seems to be a common problem in Zambia. I recently started going for driving lessons – I figured with a bit of downtime on my hands I really ought to become compliant with the laws of the country. It is easy to drive around without a license but not only is it illegal, it’s also nerve wrecking to be dodging the police! I was shocked to find that you can rock up any time you feel like it and wait for an available instructor. For some of us who actually have time sensitive lives, this way of operating is really frustrating.

Finally I asked the owner of the driving school – who interestingly enough is quite hands on with how it’s run – why they simply didn’t allocate time slots to each student. She seemed nervous, but the way I see it, we (Zambians) need to start respecting time, there are only so many hours in the day. If we commit to something, let it be in an organised fashion. If I book my driving lessons for 10-11am then I need to be there during that time or I lose my slot, and therefore my money. Would we not follow that procedure? And for us more controlling people, we’d prefer services like that, because I can still plan my day around it. Right now, my driving lessons might only be for an hour, but I could be out of the office for over 2 hours as I wait for an available instructor or car. Doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the same thing with the driving test. All the driving schools rock up at the same time and convince the examiner to let their school go first. But surely again, each school can be given an allocated time and limit? It’s just more structured, and more organised.

Somehow it seems we just like to live in chaos for no reason… oh but then again, it’s in chaos that other businesses thrive I guess…

Wish me luck as I take my driving test next Tuesday! I so need to pass… I don’t do well with failure…

Yes, that was Lupita Nyong’o I was referring too. And the other two siblings I didn’t name check were Mary and Freddy – sorry about that, it’s just Tasha was there in the audience! 🙂

The whole premise of TED is about ideas worth spreading. When I was invited to speak at TEDXEuston, which is the premiere event on ideas worth spreading related to Africa, I was excited and anxious at the same time. Have you watched some of these TED talks? They are freakin awesome! So what was I going to talk about?

I had so many experiences, but what was worthy of sharing? I chose something a little bit controversial but true to who I was and what I was feeling (or going through) at that time. I’m less angry, but I still believe and stand by what I was talking about.

However, on the day, my nerves kind of got the better of me (plus 15-18 minutes is a lot less time than I thought!), so I’m not even sure I got my points across. My original topic was on how I believe that the development community kills creativity in Zambia (I couldn’t speak to other countries in Africa, though I did have similar experiences with my work in Kenya), yes I was having my Dambisa dead aid moment! But to be honest, that wasn’t going to be too helpful to sit around bitching about the problem, I needed to address it critically, to say so how do we change this?

Let me take you back a bit. My issue stems from when I look around at billboards, or TV adverts, posters etc related to some development issue, be it HIV, malaria, etc, and it’s bad. It’s not creative or compelling. It’s not comparable to the commercial ads (ok some local ones are questionable too), it’s not like coca cola, or FNB, or any other brand that’s doing some pretty awesome stuff. And don’t get it twisted, some of these ‘prosocial ads’ have a pretty good budget. Budget aside, they could still try and be creative.

But it was almost like there is a belief that because it’s made in Africa or made for Africa it needs to be, well, shit. Samsung do made (built) for Africa the best – it’s not shit, it’s innovative, and works for our terrain – which is what we need. But otherwise, we remain the dumping ground for rubbish.

It frustrates me because despite how many educated and skilled people are in the country, we still contend with Washington telling us what we can and can’t do. I’m not saying we have all the answers or that we can do everything, but we make a plan – that’s the point.

And why do they settle for substandard? There are creatives in this country (ourselves included) who want to deliver good quality and international products, who have pride in their own outputs and take exception to using low resolution photography, who won’t steal images off the internet, or not think through the use of colours etc. Rather than say ‘this is the best Zambia can do’, look around and find the best.

My bigger point though, was that as these development communication and/or marketing are supposed to improve our lives, we too have the power to say, ‘actually it’s crap, so I don’t want to buy what you’re selling – because it doesn’t speak to me, or my values’, and if these development agencies don’t want to work with us, or at least listen to what we have to say (regarding creativity and production values), then we have to do the communication our selves.

The same way we want to be responsible for the stories coming out of Africa, for us to tell our stories, is the same way that we should also get involved, and indeed be responsible for our development agenda, and our development messages. We don’t need to shortchange ourselves by putting out substandard products when it’s related to one of the most important product to sell – our health and our wellbeing.

Watch the full talk and I hope I didn’t miss my point!

2013

2013 has been a year full of ups and downs, massive successes, at huge prices. If you’ve been following me, I don’t need to remind you of the year I’ve had. But we’d finally been making progress – seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when two things happened that sent me reeling.

Loyalty has always been something that I value, in all aspects of my life, and most certainly in the business. The last week of the working year for us, I felt as though I had been stabbed in the back. The hurt I felt can not even be described, one act compromised the business and was just plain evil, the other was just a bit of a double cross. But put together, it was in short the straw that broke the camel’s back.

After discussing it, and thinking about it, we knew to grow, we needed to always put the business first. Even if it meant sacrificing.

There are definitely parts (and people) of 2013 that I’d like to erase altogether, and I think mentally I have done that. But as I believe every day is a learning day, I’m not mad (anymore), it’s just another lesson learnt that I’ll take into 2014 to build the businesses bigger and stronger.

Before going into 2014 we’re taking a much needed break, and we will be back.

Merry Christmas and a Very Prosperous New Year.

So the new rage seems to be natural hair. Everywhere you go, everywhere you look, people are embracing natural hair and the media is having their take on it (despite the fact that loads of people have been natural for years, so what’s new?!). Last night I read an article in the Bulletin and Record – quite a long piece too. And was not slightly frustrated about it!

Nothing original, just the same angle that having natural hair is about liberation, about proclaiming our Africanality (if such a word exists), ok Africanism, and showing that ‘I’m proud to be Black’! Ok, very good. And for the rest of us who just have it natural because we’re trying to grow it back healthy? Without trying to make a political statement?

Me in the office

I started my ‘natural hair journey’ a couple of years ago after getting fed up with my previously long luscious hair thinning and looking with envy at my sister’s down to her shoulder ‘fro. She had previously suffered a similar fate and decided to go natural. So I thought why not? Of course I completely forgot that my sister and I have totally different hair textures!

I was recommended by another ‘naturalist’ to join a facebook group that supported ‘us’ on ‘our’ journey. It was interesting in the beginning but I realised it was really hardwork! Once I figured out what EVOO was, and to DC, pre-poo and all sorts, I realised the line about how you can just wash and go with a ‘fro was far from true! And worse still the fact that everyone’s texture is different so what works for you might not work for me. (Also the group seemed a little bit cult-like too).

But more and more there seemed to be an us vs them argument – the naturalists vs the weave/perm team – the pro-black vs the sell out. It simply was not that serious for me. In fact I daily contemplate going back to relaxing my hair, it’s just right now (because I don’t follow the religious regiments others do), having natural hair is far more affordable. However, if I was to follow the regiments and treatments as suggested on the blogs, or the ‘cult’ group, I’d question which was more affordable – EVOO is not cheap!

The thing that gets to me is also the misconception that your hair can only be healthy if it’s natural. Not true. Hair can equally be healthy if you have a care and maintenance routine even when relaxed (though how something that’s dead can be thought of as healthy anyway is beyond me).

The other issue the article pointed to was that ‘lots’ of celebrities have weaves and this is why ‘normal’ women prefer that to natural hair. Erm ok, but what about the fact that a weave can be a protective style? And that actually some of these so called ‘lots’ of celebrities do in fact have natural hair under those weaves?

The thing I’ve always loved about black women is our ability to express ourselves though fashion, interesting hairstyles and just things that are part of who we are that makes us stand out. So why should our hair now be confined to one thing? And how come this debate does not rage on about white women? They tan, do they want to be black? They have weaves, so what is their shame? Does Kim Kardashian want to be black because she dates black men?

I mean why is it that we are the ones with issues?

I love my hair – even when it’s hair that I bought! I think that my hair is an expression of who I am, what I’m feeling at that time. I feel equally empowered when my full on afro is exposed (not quite shoulder length but getting there), as I do when I’m rocking a dead straight ‘whip it in your’ face, down to the middle of my back weave. And you know what? Either way someone is going to ask me if that’s my hair!

So when you see me in my cornrows or my natural hair out, know that I’m not Team Natural, I’m Team My Hair, My Choice.

If it grows out of my head, is not natural regardless to what I do with it?

If it grows out of my head, is it not natural regardless of what I do with/to it?

An entrepreneur, according to Dictionary.com, is defined as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”  Forbes goes a step further to state that ‘entrepreneurs find a need – any need – and they fill it’.

An entrepreneur is said to be a money multiplier – they invest to gain rewards, but at the end of the day, they run businesses.  What is the point of a business if it’s not going to make a profit?  In that case it’s not a business, it’s a charity, or a non profit organisation or maybe even a non-governmental organisation.

The reason I’m banging on about this is because I’m not sure if the point of being an entrepreneur is really understood in Zambia.  Some of my clients think I should lower my prices or discount everything for them because they work in developmental work and so I’ll be aiding in national development if I do this work for free!  Erm, no, I’ll be aiding national development if I am successful enough to provide jobs for other citizens of this country and pay taxes (more than I pay now due to more revenue :)).

Or the other day I was told about a three day event from a foreign government to learn about how entrepreneurs can aid in sustainable development.  I was baffled.  I costed out the potential lose of business to the company – as in my line of work, everyone’s time is charged out – and the outcome of this venture was for the business to understand its role in sustainable development?  Not the potential to win a really large contract?  Not an opportunity to pitch a sale?  Not an opportunity to showcase our work (so that we can attract new clients)? Potentially an opportunity to network (which is never a bad idea, but can be done in one day).

 It got me thinking – is it that we have a different role as entrepreneurs in Zambia?  Is entrepreneurs seen as the new darlings of development, the NGOs and non-for profit have had their day so now it’s all about the cute, fuzzy entrepreneurs cropping up around Africa trying to make it on their own?  

 Ok perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, I’m sure the thinking behind these entrepreneur workshops are well intentioned, and maybe if the workshop was specific to my industry, or just a bit more clearer on its objectives as a whole I won’t think of it as so ‘insulting’ to my entrepreneurial spirit!  

 I guess it came at a time where I was just angry, angry at how difficult the path is for an entrepreneur with challenges that can’t solely be solved by workshops (though you can make great connections).  Unless the workshops are targeted at real business challenges that all SMEs face, about operational cash flow, about access to finance (and not the BS ones the bank tries to sell you), on management, on product development, processes and whatever else entrepreneurs get caught up on, it’s just time away from growing my business. 

 The entrepreneur in Zambia is not applauded, despite the fact that in our economic climate, it might be the only way to go, it’s certainly not easy to get a job!

 Though with some of the young people out there, who think it is easy to get a job, maybe this is why being an entrepreneur is not such a big deal.  I have had two young people work with us recently, who frustrated me no end – it’s amazing how kids today can say they want to be the best of the best and then not actually do the work or learning to make them the best of the best.  Anyway, there was a real disconnect, as if they were doing us a favour by working here!  In fact one who left recently was totally chuffed that they were going to work as a PA for a start up they know nothing about!  It was like being here was a holiday, and now they suddenly have a real job.  I shrugged my shoulders, thinking was I really than vacuous at 21?

 Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I believe that we’re the best of the best (yet), or the number one choice place to work (yet), or the super successful, trail blazing business (yet), but hey, I do know potential when I see it!  And I think for some businesses maybe those type of workshops are necessary and important for them, they’re just not for the type of business I want to be.

 Ok perhaps if they asked me to speak at the event I would have gone 🙂  Seriously though, I think when you set out to run your own business, you have to know what you’re in it for, and there are lots of reasons to run your own business that aren’t based on profits alone, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, if your business isn’t making a profit, and it can’t sustain your needs, then why have the business?

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.  It’s hard, it’s long hours, it’s emotionally draining and there is so much failure involved.  But it’s also fun, rewarding, and life affirming!  I just wish that people in Zambia would regard it as a serious endeavor instead of some new craze.

 Oh dear, am I beginning to sound just a little bit too angry?!

I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of Maliposa last night. I was honoured that Mingeli Palata the creator of the movie invited us to watch. The creative industry in Zambia is small and competitive, but not always healthy competition and good sportsmanship (for lack of a better term).

I have never worked with Mingeli per se but we’ve interacted quite a bit and share a passion for production and the industry in Zambia. Mingeli first told me about Maliposa a few months ago, and even sent me a copy for my opinion. At the time, I was going through my own reflection process – was I too critical of everything? Shouldn’t we be focussed on the fact that people are trying and not berate them for standards (or lack of)? After all, look at the Nigerian film and TV industry – it started a mess, and there still are programmes that are a mess, but it’s also produced really good productions too. And I was starting to believe that the point is to start, regardless.

My feedback at the time was actually it was alright. It was still better than what was currently on our screens and the story was relevant and timely. Maliposa, funded by Ministry of Gender and Community Development, deals with the all too pervasive issue of sexual assault and gender inequity. And it was shot with this blue filter that symbolised the sadness of the issue. But Mingeli was not happy. I understood that too because as a creator, you want to see your vision, as you imagined regardless of what people said. (It’s like how I feel about Love Games season 1 – but I didn’t have the luxury of budget to reshoot it). There were some technical challenges, and Mingeli went back to the drawing board and reshoot the entire thing. And I admire him for sticking to his principles and values regardless of the cost.

So yesterday watching it, was like watching the film for the first time. I do applaud Mingeli and Gardner Media for doing that film because it’s not easy. I’m not a technical person – in terms of camera styles, angles, lighting etc so I won’t speak to that. But from what I do know, the hardest part of doing a film that is funded, and is there to convey a specific message is getting the message right.

You can be excused for thinking that it’s easy to write a script with a message. But the reality is it’s not. There is an art to messaging, and not to toot our own horn (though why not?) but that is something we’re really good at, and it helps that we’ve been doing this for a long time.

Also because I am such a ‘girl power’ fanatic, I was disappointed with the script, and more so when I found out it was written by a woman. However, the only caveat to this statement is that in their defence, they created a 2 hour movie from a 13 part series for TV, so there could be things in the TV series that will strengthen the content. I wonder how many real life stories they draw from, because it’s one thing to read the stats or to read transcripts from court cases or whatever fact based research was done, without talking to the real life people behind the stats, or having gone through the experience yourself, there is a level of authenticity that is missing.

However, I do think a good majority of people will nonetheless enjoy this production – even after the premiere last night, it seemed a success and the Ministry very happy – a happy client is always a good thing! And I do see the show traveling, even outside of Zambia, but as a tv show and nothing more. Great for Gardner Media, not so great for the Ministry and its donors who were trying to address an issue.
Content is an issue for us, us as in creators in Zambia. We’re getting the technical right but when you look at what we’re producing, it’s content that is letting us down. This morning I watched a music video that again, technically looked good (remember I’m not an expert, I’m sure if I showed it to one of my more experienced film/tv/video makers they would pinpoint lighting errors and all sorts!) but for me where it let me down – like so many other good videos before it – was the content and lack of a concept (if there was one, it just wasn’t clear).

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think one person has to be good at everything – that’s why we can rely on partnerships, to strengthen where one is weak. I think it’s great we’re getting our industry together and we’re definitely putting out better things than in the past, but let’s still be open and honest about the challenges. This will help us all improve.

I hope you’ll all watch Maliposa, because supporting our own, also helps grow the industry – we need to be hungry for our own content to grow it to the standards we want it to be. And it will happen, I believe it. I really hope I won’t get mistaken for being a hater – too often when we criticize people think it comes from a place of hate, but really I see too many people giving false feedback meaning no one can learn and improve. I just don’t want to be that person – I do want to give honest feedback, but still encourage people to keep doing them – we’re not at the stage where any production (TV/Film/Video) is faultless yet. Just keeping it one hundred.

Time flies! I can’t believe that it’s been almost a month since I last blogged, just been so hectic. I feel like I say this every time I blog! Time moves on and so much happens, good and bad.

Season two of Love Games is finally being broadcast, which is great! I’m really excited about season two. I went back and forth on this season, it was a hard one for us as it’s the last season of the show, so it’s pretty heavy. We learned a lot from producing season one, so season two is the result of all these learnings, so I’m super proud of that.

I can’t even begin to discussing the difference between shooting season one and season two. The sleepless nights I faced during season one, weren’t there in two! But it came from the experience. I think even the crew who worked on both seasons can say this. And that’s something that I’m big on – constant learning. We can’t sit on our laurels and say ‘it’s good enough, therefore I don’t need to learn any more.’ And it’s also important to listen to the critics (not the haters, the critics), listen to it, take it in, and do what needs to be done. I don’t believe in listening to the negativity that makes you beat yourself up, but honestly dissect it and say, does that add value? And if it does, take it on board.

You can never please everyone, you have to ensure that you are happy first and foremost. Because you have to live with your decisions and your work is your legacy after all, if that’s your calling card, are you 100% happy with it? If so, then don’t sweat it. But if you’re not, then keep it 100 and do something about it.

But Love Games has come to an end and there are lots of changes at Media 365, which at first had me in serious worry mode, but then I remembered my motto ‘start with the end in mind’. I had to check myself to remember where this journey is going to end, and that excited me again. We’re fighters, we don’t stay down for long!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that apart from business, the next thing I’m passionate about is empowering women. I’m so pro-women that it hearts my heart when I hear about other women not supporting each other, and I’ve seen it in practice, so I’m not foolish enough to claim it’s just a man-made thing to keep us women down (but it’s tempting to say it!), but I’ve also seen amazing women that support each other. This is no truer than in Octavia Goredema.

Twenty Ten Club logo

I get so proud when I look at the strong women in my life and their trailblazing success. Octavia is one such woman. She started the Twenty Ten Club in London to inspire and connect with like minded black business woman to get them to reach their true potential and grow their businesses. When I started running Media 365 a couple of years ago, I reached out to Octavia to share with her my own frustrations of not only running a business, but of being a business woman in a country that didn’t necessarily respect women in the first place. I spoke to her of the challenges I found of being taken seriously and finding my space in this male dominated society. And I mused about how great it would be to have a supportive organisation like the Twenty Ten Club.

Little did I know that it was just at that time that Octavia, who had not only received an MBE from the Queen, but had also started another business, while also relocated back to the States, was already toying with the idea of expanding her network into Africa. Talk about the right timing!

Recently, I was honoured to champion the ideals and values of the Twenty Ten Club, by becoming the Chair of the Twenty Ten Club Zambia – the first one in Africa.
On one hand, I worried about where I’d find the time to take this on as well, with everything going on at Media 365, but then I also know that not only will it help me be a better business woman, it also allows me to pursue my other passion – empowering women to achieve the success they deserve.

While there are other networking organisations that connect woman who are climbing up the corporate ladder, or helping them achieve their dreams, there isn’t one that is specifically for business owners. I think as career women, we all have similar ‘issues’ but as business owners we also have specific issues that corporate employees don’t necessarily have. So I thrilled to be taking on this challenge and really hope that I can mirror the success of the Twenty Ten Club in the UK.

I’ll obviously keep you posted! In the meantime, I hope you’re getting your Love Games fix too!

The last month has been very interesting. We have spent time looking for the production crew to work on the second season of the highly successful Love Games. A lot of people don’t have the experience or the education for working in TV production, not surprisingly, Zambia doesn’t really have a TV industry. It is definitely one that is growing, but not yet as mature as our neighbors, especially not like South Africa, or Kenya even.

Career vs Job

But I looked at some cvs of people who’d had the opportunity to study abroad, and they all have degrees in stable career paths, like economics, law, business etc. When asked why they wanted to work on the production as say a make up artist, they said it was because it was their passion. So my follow up question was, ‘then why didn’t you study it in school?’

Most people had the stock answer, ‘I needed a back up just in case.’ Erm, you have no experience, or education in the field you’re passionate about, so how does that show it’s your plan A?

As an African child raised by a very African father, I understand the not doing what you really want to do. My father wanted all of us to go to university and get a degree in something traditional like economics, law, business etc. I said, ‘nah, I think I want to study film.’ He sighed and told me to prepare myself for a life of unemployment.

Plan-A

It didn’t deter me though. I didn’t necessarily go on to study film for many reasons, but I did ingrain myself in the industry where I could. My former boss at MTV has no qualms telling anyone who’ll listen how much I bugged her to get a job there – I was pretty bad. I’m sure she hired me just out of frustration! Lol. Now, I’m not sure that type of persistence will always get you what you need, but you do have to have some persistence for people to take you seriously.

And then it’s not all glamourous to start with. There is real grunt work to do when you’re on the come up in the TV industry. It’s hard work, it’s late nights, and all for not much pay… or pretty much any industry really. It’s all about determination and focus – you know what you want, and you work towards that.

My whole career has been focussed on working in the media arena in one way or another and honing my skills to make me better each day – I keep telling people, every day is a learning day!

The last couple of years (well will be 2 years on Sunday) in Lusaka I’ve been shocked by the work ethics of most people I’ve met. People be like give me a job and let me show you want I can do. And then they show up to work late, write in text speech, they expect you to accept their shoddy work, and get surprised (and upset) when you fire them. Actually in most cases they fire themselves! Walk off set, or don’t show up at call time for no valid reason. They saunter back on set when they’re ready and expect to find a job waiting for them!

After my stint at MTV I’m used to people working like slaves to get ahead – ok it didn’t help that it was fairly obvious that there was a queue of hundreds of people waiting to take your job if you didn’t perform. But I do truly believe that fortune favors those that put in the effort for their career. And there were countless examples of the interns who rose to SVPs (senior vice presidents) at MTV, exemplifying that anything is possible.

Yet, here, just working past 7pm is a problem for people. And can’t be dedicated to one thing… I don’t know, it’s frustrating.

success

Again I understand it’s scary to commit to one thing, especially when there is no industry to show that it’s worth the commitment, but how do you know for sure if you don’t try?

There will be many that come, but only few will remain. And these few will be the ones that establish a real tv and entertainment media industry for the country.

Right now I have little tolerance left, and like America, I refuse to negotiate with terrorists. If it means I have to fire someone even if I don’t have a back-up person, so be it, we make an alternate plan, terrorists can’t hold us to ransom!

For me there is no going back because I don’t have the back up plan. Plan A has always been my plan, so I might fail at times, but I always have to get up and dust myself and keep it moving. I don’t quit. I might let go of things when I’ve tried every means to make it work, but I won’t quit. And I like to surround myself with the people who have the same spirit. It’s not always easy, those close to me have seen when I’ve fallen apart, frustrated, not knowing what to do, but we get up, we solider on. No one said it would be easy – and they do say anything worth having is not easy.

Maybe I do push people too hard, or expect too much, but I do truly believe that everyone can achieve greatness – or at least what they want in life. I just don’t have the patience for anyone not trying to achieve what they can, with some hardwork, focus, and determination.

In the words of my friend Believe + Achieve! (though ok you need a little bit more than believe, but you know what I mean!

I’ve now been in Zambia for two years – well it will be two years next month, boy does time fly fast! I’m still getting used to both the way of life and the way people work here.

Zambia is an interesting place. We’ve suffered no real conflict since we gained our independence in 1964. While political leaders may have overstayed their use in power, by and large all our elections have been peaceful with power handover being free from any violence or unrest. This seems to be a good thing. But perhaps it talks to the passive nature we have as a people.

Most people I have met in Zambia are very laid back, hoping that somehow the work will do itself, and we’ll get paid for doing next to nothing, and one day we’ll be rich and financial secure. Sigh, if only.

Zambia operates as a cash based society, though most companies operate with a 30-45 day payment policy. The problem being that it’s a vicious cycle, clients have to pay, so that you can pay your suppliers, so they can pay their employees, so they can pay their employees and their kids school fees and so on and so on. When any part of that chain doesn’t work, it screws someone.

cash-flow-management

If you’re an up and coming company you don’t really have the cashflow to deal with late payments. The banks don’t extend credit unless you’re giving them something in exchange – i.e. cash or property to secure an overdraft or facility (zero risk for the bank, yet you still get charged a hefty interest fee), so if your clients don’t pay you, it puts you in a tricky situation.

This was a situation we found ourselves in the last month or so, our clients just weren’t paying and we couldn’t pay all our suppliers.

The first thing that I felt was huge embarrassment. There is nothing worse than not being able to pay your bills. It makes you feel almost like a failure, how did you not manage your cashflow, why are the client’s not paying, and not to mention the sleepless nights.

Then I started to talk to more experienced business owners, who asked me one question, what can you do about it? The reality was nothing. You can’t control when the clients pay, you can hope to manage your cashflow better – which you do learn – and you have to communicate with your suppliers.

At the end of day repeat business is better and cheaper than looking for new business. So you too want to manage your client relationships. Suppliers sadly to say are easier to replace, every day there is someone vying for new business. I’d prefer to keep my suppliers happy but when they too decide that they’re not interested in you as a client and treat you that way, why would you bother sticking to doing business with them once you’ve paid them?

I’ve talked about this many times – building relationships for long term growth – but I find it’s a recurring issue when doing business in Zambia, people just don’t value that relationship. It works even with friends and family you have credit terms with. As long as you sell a product, regardless of who the person is, you have to engage them as a customer and aim for repeat business.

Sadly most people don’t realise this. Today, I decided to stop buying shoes from someone who was supplying me. I don’t for one second doubt this doesn’t bother her, yet now she’ll have to find someone else willing to spend the x amount (:0) I was paying every time she brought shoes. Again I’m not doubting she will eventually find someone, but rather than adding to her bottom line, she now has to find more clients to keep her bottom line as it is now. But again, I doubt she’ll realise this or care right now.

This is how I feel about other suppliers who no longer enjoy our business – was the disregard for the company worth the loss of business? Perhaps it was worth it for them, but I know that when I’m dealing with my clients I swallow my pride a lot because my bottom line is worth it to me. I want my company to be here not only tomorrow but in 20 odd years and then some.

And when it comes to suppliers, I take the American stance, I simply refuse to deal with terrorists! It is never the intention of good businesses to not pay people or suppliers, sometimes ish beyond your control happens. And happens to all growing businesses. What is important is your word, which is why in situations like this communication is super important. Keeping everyone abreast of the situation helps, though not everyone cares for this, they just want to get paid! But what you going to do?

Then the hard decisions also come in to play. As a business that started really small, (we’re still small, just growing), we got to where we are because of hardwork and determination yes, but also because of the faith other bigger organizations had in us, this is something we’d like to pass on to smaller companies trying to come up. But if they can’t afford to give you the 45 days credit terms we need for cashflow management, does that mean we don’t work with them, and don’t give them the opportunity to grow too?

I guess there are other businesses out there more established, who can give the small businesses coming up the cash they also need to grow. Ultimately as business leaders, we always have to put the needs of the businesses first, regardless of the sacrifice – well, depending on your end goal.